This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things (also known as Arguecat) is a series of LOLcat-style image macros featuring an angry-looking cat and the catchphrase. In discussion forums and imageboards, it is typically used in response to discussion threads or posts that are perceived as derailing from the original topic. Ultimately, the phrase implies that because of a person's inappropriate or destructive behavior, there is no point in spending money or time on various goods.
The phrase predates its internet usage. According to online discussions, the phrase has roots in popular culture, one of the earliest notable mentions came from American standup comedian Paula Poundstone who used the phrase in her 1990 HBO stand-up special Cats, Cops and Stuff. During the special, Poundstone tells a childhood story about dropping a Flintstones jelly-jar glass in the kitchen. Her mother responds to the accident, "Oh, so we can't have nice things."
In the 1998 film Jane Austen's Mafia!, the character Tony (portrayed by Jay Mohr) says the line during an argument with his significant other (shown below).
Over the next year, the meme continued to appear on various internet forums. On December 8th, 2008, for example, DigitPress forums user FxMercenary posted the meme in a comment in the thread "Does replacing the battery in carts devalue them?"
The meme continued to experience regular usage during the height of LOLcats popularity in the late 2000s. On July 18th, 2009, for example, the meme appeared in a Caturday round-up on the website Master Marf.
As LOLcats decreased in popularity, the phrase continued to find online relevance on various web forums and in image macro memes with other characters (example below, left).
On November 10th, 2017, American recording artist Taylor Swift used the phrase as the title of a song on her album reputation. The following year, on December 12th, 2018, Swift uploaded the song to YouTube, where the video received more than 861,000 views in less than three years (shown below, right).